There is so much more to musicality then simply being “on time” with the music. There is an element of literally feeling the music, and letting it carry the body through movement. I found this blog that I believe stated it perfectly. I would like to share it here with you along with some of my own personal thoughts and of course amazing videos to prove my point.
The blog Dance Advantage has a post on Musicality in Dance: What is it? Can it be taught?
Musicality in dance has two main components. Receptivity and Creativity.
Musical receptivity is ones ability to receive, comprehend, be sensitive to, and have a working knowledge of musical concepts like rhythm, tempo, phrasing, and even mood.
Musical creativity (or musical artistry) is the ability to connect with accompanying music, interpret it, or phrase and add movement dynamics that relate to music even in the absence of accompaniment, in a way that is unique or interesting.
The video below is a perfect example of dancers making their own beats and accents with their body. Even in the “absence of accompaniment,” the dancers creates music of his own through his body. The Les twins are one of the best portrayals of musicality I have ever seen!
Musicality in dance then might be considered a measure or degree to which a dancer is receptive and creative in his translation or rendering of music through movement. It is a key ingredient in a dancer’s display of artistry (more on developing artistry can be found here).
I think that what we consider “natural” ability is mostly learned in a sense, albeit for some very early in life. My son at 2 already displays a very “natural” sense of rhythm and musical awareness however he also heard and felt music and movement from within my body as I taught classes, we dance around our home, music is often a part of our daily routine… Perhaps it goes back to those synapses that people form very early in life, why its best and easiest to learn languages at a very young age for example. Music is another kind of language and those neural pathways are opened through exposure and experience when we are young [sometimes very, very young]. As we get older it may be harder to carve out those pathways, just as it harder to learn a language as one gets older. But I do think it is possible to develop greater musical awareness and comprehension in students with time and exposure (and a willingness on the part of the student since learning is of course a two-way street). Will those that are not “naturals” ever catch up with those that are? Maybe, maybe not, but it’s worth a try.
These dancers display an amazing sense of musicality. The dancer in the blue shirt and shorts in the first group, Alexa, has been dancing her entire life, and musicality is natural for her. On the other hand the second dancer, Mataya, did not grow up with dance, however her understanding of music is incredible.
Though babies show a preference for moving to a rhythm, even in this recent study [Babies are born to dance to the beat - telegraph.co.uk], it seems individuals display varying degrees of accuracy. In thinking more on this topic, I realized that there will always be degrees of potential and talent, which may be either naturally genetic or nurtured very early. Either way, as teachers we can establish greater receptivity in our students by giving them the opportunity to be receptive. We can provide plenty of practice so that they have the tools to expand their musical creativity.